Anyone involved in the kidlit community probably already knows Marcie Colleen. She is active in 12 x 12, teaches Kid Lit Summer School, and is a frequent presenter at SCBWI conferences, through online webinars and at a host of other venues. She is always extremely generous with both her advice and her time. In fact, I was hesitant to even ask Marcie to participate, as she gives so much to our community already. I used the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon approach and had one of my CPs who already knew her, reach out on my behalf. And luckily for us, she said YES! (Maybe I should create a game like that? Six Degrees of Marcie?) She is so full of knowledge and energy that her mentee will be lucky indeed.
How did you make the jump from picture books to chapter books, and do you think you will tackle middle grade one day?
First, let me say, I know that I got lucky. I was already writing picture books when I was approached by Erin Stein, publisher at Imprint/Macmillan. She had an idea for a chapter book series and needed an author. To tell you the truth, I was super nervous. Although I had often thought about delving into chapter books, I didn’t know the first thing about writing them. But the concept was so awesome that I couldn’t say no. As for a possible middle grade in the future, I definitely think there is a possibility. These shorter texts have been like a gateway drug to longer form.
You are active in several children’s writing organizations. What did you find most helpful and worthwhile when you started to pursue your dream of writing for children?
The most worthwhile aspect has been the classes I have taken to focus on craft. Craft is king! I will never feel like I am finished learning. And it’s my foundation of craft that has gotten me this far.
Your bio states that you live with a mischievous sock monkey. Tell us about that.
Oh yes. I live with a seven-year-old sock monkey named Bloois who is always up to something. He has been the source of much inspiration. Living with Bloois is like living with a year-round Elf on the Shelf or the Dinovember dinosaurs. Once I came home to find Bloois had gotten into the marshmallows (see exhibit A). And he has a penchant for riding ceiling fans (see exhibit B).
I love funny titles and this one is soooo creative. Tell us what was the idea that sparked Love, Triangle?
It’s kind of a funny story. I attended my first ever conference—the Winter 2012 SCBWI conference in New York City. One of the keynotes was given by bestselling author, Cassandra Clare, and titled “Love Triangles and Forbidden Love: Creating and Maintaining Romantic Tension in YA Literature.” Much of what she had to say made me blush. I turned to picture book author, Jodi Moore, who was sitting next to me, and jokingly whispered, “Doubt I will use anything from THIS in a picture book.” Jodi responded, “You never know.” That planted the seed. At that moment, I wondered if there was any way I could possibly write a love triangle picture book. I kept mulling over the idea and, a little over a year later, the premise finally came to me: a Circle and a Square are best friends until a more interesting Triangle shows up. After lots of encouragement from friends, I sat down and wrote it. Guess you can never predict where inspiration will turn up.
What character in Super Happy Party Bears do you identify with most?
There are a dozen Super Happy Party Bears. Although they have their own individual attributes they operate like a relentlessly cheery Greek chorus. And each one is in some way a spirit animal of mine.
You claim to have a picture of yourself with Lin-Manuel Miranda. As someone afflicted with Hamalaria (complete obsession with all things Hamilton the Musical), I must see this. Can you tell us how you got a picture with the Shakespeare of our day?
My previous career was in the NYC theatre world. I worked for a few companies which created educational materials for Broadway shows. In any case, Broadway was my SCBWI back then. It was my tribe. In April 2009, my friend Lisa Howard was in the musical 9 TO 5 and invited me to the opening night performance and party. This was pre-HAMILTON, of course. Lin-Manuel was starring at the time in his debut Broadway show, IN THE HEIGHTS, and was at the party. My friend Eddie and I chatted with him a bit about his recent success. It was Eddie who insisted we take photos. It’s not usually my style to do so, but I am so happy I have it now.
(I am very happy she has it too, as I can’t stop looking at it!)
Thank you Marcie! To apply for a mentorship with her- https://beckytarabooks.com/contest/